Grunge is often regarded as one of the most significant musical movements in modern music history. However, aesthetic grunge fashion was simply one of many offshoots of what could be considered a solid movement in popular culture – like punk.
Aesthetic grunge fashion was raucous, furious, and defiant like many music genres and movements. It arrived just in time for the angst-ridden teens of the 1990s. Something had to give in the metal scene, which had grown too commercial and oversaturated. Grunge was seen as a massive reaction to the excessive hair metal of the eighties.
Did hair metal ‘give birth’ to grunge? Not necessarily. The despair of a generation was captured in grunge, but some things weren’t meant to last for a long, long time. It was a shocking experience for many of the world’s most famous grunge artists to see the music they had made succumb to the same commodification they were fighting against.
As early as the mid-80s, bands in Seattle were playing around with the idea of combining punk with metal. The U-Men are often cited as the band who started grunge; however, some say their sound has little to do with metal and is more closely associated with post-punk. As a result, Seattle’s music scene was distinct from the rest of the country. Musicians were initially viewed as a few post-punk garage bands at the beginning of the blossoming scene. Post-punk, on the other hand, gave birth to grunge.
Come on Down, Green River’s first album was released in 1985. The Deep Six compilation included tunes from Green River, Soundgarden, Melvins, Malfunkshun, Skin Yard, and The U-Men, Skin Yard, Malfunkshun, and Melvins, Soundgarden and Green River was a notable compilation of Grunge in this period.
Metal, punk and aesthetic grunge fashion were combined uniquely, resulting in a new sound that aligned with the period’s brand of discontent and rebellion.
Soundgarden became the first major-label signing for a grunge band in 1989. Soundgarden’s first album, like those of Alice in Chains and Screaming Trees, didn’t get much attention, but the public thought it was a solid album.
After signing to Geffen Records in 1990, Nirvana began working on their first major-label release. Dave Grohl replaced Chad Channing as the band’s drummer. Butch Vig was set to produce the record. Nirvana’s album was recorded at Sound City Studios. It was a huge success.
On January 11th, 1992, the album Smells Like Teen Spirit dethroned Michael Jackson as the number one album on the Billboard charts. The record paved the way for Grunge’s mainstreamization. Flannels and denim were the uniforms of the day.
Everyone aspired to be Kurt Cobain. At least for a time.
Nevermind was a turning point in the history of music. I’m sorry, but that’s a different story. At that time, Grunge was cool. So the label began searching for the next excellent grunge band worldwide.
Even though Pearl Jam’s debut album Ten was released a month before Nevermind, sales didn’t start until the following year. Seattle has been branded “the new Liverpool” by Rolling Stone. Alice in Chains released Dirt, Soundgarden had Badmoterfinger out, and Temple of Dog had their debut album out. It was like an explosion of grunge.
What is this Fashion?
In the late eighties and and early 1990s, aesthetic grunge fashion was everywhere. Soundgarden, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Neil Young (known as the “Godfather of Grunge”) had all achieved enormous commercial success, and their sound was beginning to permeate pop culture. As a result of their grunge attire, they were considered the most outspoken members of their generation.
Generation X’s discontent with the side effects of the eighties’ economic rise spawned the grunge fashion movement. This helps to explain why grunge is so prevalent in the developed world. So many people had noticed capitalism’s negative consequences and no longer supported it.
Because they rejected the idea that a person’s worth could be measured solely in their material possessions, they left the idea of social classes. In other words, they didn’t like the idea of living a career-focused lifestyle. Human life, in their perspective, was being sacrificed unnecessarily for the sake of a 9 to 5 work.
Everything from music to fashion to television to movies showed that this generation had no desire to participate in the existing quo.
Grunge fashion is an expression of Generation X’s distaste for uniformity. The grunge look is defined by unkempt hair, make-up, flannel shirts, and antique clothing. Riot Grrrls were known for their signature look, including floral dresses and combat boots. Torn jeans were worn with slogan tees and band t-shirts. Going against the grain is at the heart of grunge fashion.
In the grunge movement, it is all about being yourself. It’s full of people who want to be renowned for their words and work rather than following the norms of their position. Their style conveys this ideology. They don’t spend much time beautifying themselves and prefer unconventional looks. To avoid the traps of capitalism, they combined contemporary items with retro or historical looks and avoided following commercial trends.
Naturally, some people choose to dress in the grunge-inspired fashions of the 90s without any knowledge of the underlying ideologies. Let others do what they want; this was the grunge mentality. Ideally, style should not be at the top of the list of debates because we are all blessed with free minds.
What Influenced the Movement?
Grunge, which translates as “grime” or “dirt,” is a musical style, a fashion statement, and a way of life that can only be associated with the Pacific Northwest and, more specifically, Seattle. So it’s worthwhile to look back at how this movement originated and how it became a widespread phenomenon 30 years later.
To begin, we must thank the Melvins. A group of artists influenced by KISS, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and AC/DC formed the band in Washington State in 1983. But, first, the Melvins drew inspiration from their idols to incorporate punk and metal into their sound.
While Seattle had just begun to shed its hippie image, the city nonetheless held on to the hippie values of counterculture and nonconformity at the time of the event. Seattle-based bands Soundgarden and Green River were established in 1984, followed by Screaming Trees in 1985. The following year, Seattle-based musical company C/Z Records released its first album, Deep Six, and Sub Pop Records was founded. Grunge pioneers such as the Melvins and Green River were included in this compilation. Malfunkshun, Skin Yard, Skin Yard, and The U-Men were also included. When Alice in Chains formed in 1987, they became part of this group of Seattle bands.
Several changes occurred in the close-knit Seattle band community between 1988 and 1990. First, Mudhoney was formed by the members of Green River who wanted to remain “underground,” while Mother Love Bone was created by those who aspired to be famous rock stars (picking up the lead singer from Malfunkshun, Andrew Wood). Then, in 1988, Soundgarden signed with A&M Records, a mainstream company, to the dismay of many of its fans, a shift in their principles of nonconformity.
Mother Love Bone was almost on top of the world of grunge when Wood abruptly died of a heroin overdose. Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, Wood’s roommate, dedicated a tribute to his friend. Temple of the Dog was born out of a few songs played with the remaining members of Mother Love Bone. When Cornell felt that a duet version of ‘Hunger Strike’ would sound better, he enlisted the help of Eddie Vedder, a backup singer from the rock band Pearl Jam. Mother Love Bone’s remaining members, including Vedder, formed a new band, initially titled Mookie Blaylock, later named Pearl Jam.
Seattle-based grunge music and subculture’s clothing, accessories, and hairstyles, known as “grunge fashion,” became widely popular and well-known by the mid-1990s. Wearing thrift shop apparel in a loose, androgynous manner detracts from the body’s shape, which is the goal of grunge fashion. Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam helped popularize the look.
To some extent, aesthetic grunge fashion was influenced by the loose, untucked-in look of thrift-store finds worn by adolescent boys and girls alike. Men wore t-shirts with slogans, band logos, etc. The T-shirt would look great with tattered or faded trousers and a checkered shirt. Doc Martens or similar combat boots in black would complete the look. According to the New York Times, “In 1992, The Times wrote: “Cheap, long-lasting, and ageless are just some of the benefits. [Grunge fashion] also goes against the 80’s trend of over-the-top glitz and glamour.” When it came to haircuts, guys emulated Kurt Cobain’s “hair sweat and guitars” look.
Less was more in the 1990s, and being dressed down was expected. Women began wearing combat boots and Doc Martens as footwear. Flannels, plaid, and ripped denim were all everyday attire and slipped skirts. People wore what would come to be vintage jewelry, too. This season, wide-legged, low-rise denim was all the rage. Simple jewelry like chokers and hoop earrings, and dark, rich lipstick completed the look. The baby-doll T-shirt and bell-bottom trousers from the 1970s were back in style by 1995. Flannels of the time were oversized, and when they were too hot to wear, they were wrapped around the waist. The half-up, half-down style, and unkempt hair were among the most popular hairdos.